As the final whistle echoed through the night air of Manchester, it was an outpouring of emotion like no other. The eruption of joy from underneath the feelings of misery and heartbreak that we have suffered in this competition for 6 years can not be explained in words. This was much more than a game of football for everyone associated with City. This was a game of disproving and conquering the demons of uncertainty and nervousness. This was the game where City were going to look at destiny in the eye and challenge it to conquer their team work and self belief.
Suffering from the past was so important
I am sure that most of you would like to find the secrets behind City’s absolute annihilation of Madrid. But, I am sorry there are no secrets to be uncovered. This victory is a culmination of how we suffered in every possible way in the last 6 years. This victory was the result of how we absorbed one heart break after an other and suffered quietly absorbing the lessons that fate and destiny had to offer us. All of those lessons from the past were visible yesterday in terms of how we controlled the play and dominated the opponent.
Pep was not joking when he said that “We had to swallow poison to beat this Madrid team”. We suffered enormously in the first leg of the tie. There were moments in that first leg where Madrid were all over us and it looked we could have been taking a deficit to the Etihad. All of the plaudits will be given to our performance in the second leg and the way we dismantled Madrid. But I don’t quite agree with this popular opinion. For me, the foundation to go on and win this tie was prepared by our defensive performance in the first leg. The beauty of that defensive performance was that everyone including Haaland suffered, blocking and defending Madrid’s attacks in the second half.
There has been a seismic shift in Pep’s thinking
The way Pep Guardiola has approached the away legs in the Champions league has taken quite a lot of people by surprise this season. He has accepted that it is almost impossible to control all of the variables in a Football match. The fact that we didn’t even attack against Leipzig in the away leg tells you about the seismic shift in Pep’s approach. This could be a template that the club could follow for a long time as far as European football is concerned.
No one could have ever imagined Pep to play with 4 center backs and get rid of the attacking elements of full backs completely. I know Walker played a huge part, but his primary job was defending and the attacking play from our full backs was almost non existent. Great credit has to be given to Pep for evolving in the middle of a season and charting out this new system. If you glance at our season in February first week, we did not have a system where Erling Haaland could be effective. There were people all around who were saying that Haaland can never adjust to Pep’s style of play.
This just shows you the levels that Pep Guardiola has got as a manager. His tactical systems have got a depth that Football might have never ever witnessed before. I mean changing a system in the middle of the season is so difficult that mere mortals can never even dream of it
Real Madrid were a mere spectator to City’s masterpiece
I know that I have not talked about the technicalities and the actual performances on the field. But, like I was discussing before, this was much more than a Football game. This was a game where we first had to win our internal battles and fight against destiny. This was a game where we had to conquer all our self doubts and even defeat destiny if need be.
The first goal sums up every thing about this match. The way John Stones came into the right wing position from midfield stunned all of the Real Madrid Players. That entire phase of play which culminated with Bernardo scoring was nothing more than a master piece painted by Pep Guardiola. The way we created space for that goal just left Madrid awe struck and they could not recover after that
Everyone including myself was still fearful of that dreaded Madrid comeback, but we underestimated that first punch Bernardo landed on Madrid. They brought out the white handkerchief there itself. There was no way back for them.
More than the victory it was the manner of the victory that will please Pep Guardiola. We did not just knock them out, but we punched the stuffing’s out of their day light. We defeated Real Madrid in such a way that they might still be having nightmares of this defeat after an year. City have knocked down two of Europe’s elite clubs in the quest to get to this final. This is just the start of what will be a City juggernaut and an era of dominance in Europe for years to come